ASRC Catering: Catering for a Cause

ASRC Catering is a social enterprise founded by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC )in 2005. The purpose of the business was to provide people seeking asylum with training, employment and job readiness for the Australian market, with any profits going back to the ASRC.

Caroline Sturzaker has been the manager of ASRC Catering since 2006, leaving behind a career owning and operating St Kilda foodie staples Greasy Joe’s and  Caffé Maximus to support the vision of ASRC Catering.

“I chose to join ASRC Catering because I felt I could put to good use my years of hospitality experience in a business where the focus wasn't just on the bottom line,” says Sturzaker.

The vision for ASRC Catering has always been to provide asylum seekers the opportunity to reach their full potential - to work, to gain skills and confidence, and to connect with the local community. This is achieved through providing a professional catering service that offers a global food experience, the menu reflecting the cultural diversity of the team.

“Food can bond cultures. Traditionally food has been used to help bridge the cultural divides between peoples and countries. Our staff have either grown up cooking the recipes of their forbears or eating those foods,” explains Sturzaker, “History has shown that Australians are ready to embrace many and varied cuisines and are constantly on the lookout for the next trend. If an asylum seeker is standing in your lounge room and serving you something you have never tasted before that can start a conversation.”

Ibrahim joined ASRC Catering two years ago after arriving in Australia from South Sudan and has developed confidence in his interpersonal and communication skills through interacting with the community at events.

“Some of the customers have the desire to know a little bit about my background by asking a few questions about the similarities and differences of my country of birth and my second home, Australia,” says Ibrahim.

ASRC Catering has employed 48 asylum seekers over the past four years alone and Sturzaker has seen first-hand the impact of securing regular work and interaction with the community on ASRC Catering’s employees.

“For those people who have suffered trauma, torture and upheaval in their lives, work can be an aid in coping with the stress.  The staff often come to us with complicated and difficult histories but as time passes there is conversation and laughter, new skills are learnt and their confidence increases. You can see how the work contributes to a sense of self-worth which is crucial to well-being,” says Sturzaker.

Over the past 11 years ASRC Catering has gone from strength to strength, reaching some major milestones including winning The Age Good Food Guide 2016 ‘Food For Good’ Award, moving into a large commercial kitchen in Fitzroy North and catering over 1,000 events. This success has seen over $750,000 in profits reinvested into ASRCs other asylum seeker support programs over the past five years.

“We have always operated to the highest professional standards and our significant sustained growth over the years indicates we have a very happy, and growing, customer base.”

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